Patrick Mason, a scholar of Mormon studies at Claremont Graduate University, said Romney has learned “to speak in such generic terms that he could have been a Methodist.”
Still, Mason said the timing of the old video’s revival was “suspect.” He said he has observed an increase in recent weeks of chatter online about Romney and his faith.
“A lot of people are saying this is a last-ditch effort by people who oppose Romney to bring out the Mormon card, to bring out the weirdness,” said Mason.
The video shows Romney growing increasingly agitated as he speaks with Mickelson. The host, meantime, appears unconvinced as he sits just a few feet from Romney in a cramped radio studio. Romney, wearing a shirt and tie, repeatedly argues that he has a far better understanding of his religion than the talk show host.
“You’re trying to tell me that I’m not a faithful Mormon,” Romney said at one point.
The episode clearly stuck with the candidate. A few months later that year, when CBS’ Katie Couric asked if he had ever lost his temper, Romney cited the interview as an example of a rare moment of personal frustration. He recalled that the host began “drilling me about my faith, and I became intense in confronting what he had said.”
One other aspect of the interview annoyed him, too.
“Unbeknownst to me,” Romney said, “he had a hidden camera on the console, so this then popped up on the Internet.”
Mickelson, in an interview, called Romney’s subsequent comments surprising.
“There were two cameras mounted on tripods,” the talk show host recalled. “This was not at a bar, it was a radio talk show in front of cameras. What did he think was going to happen?”
Horowitz reported from Salt Lake City.